(WNS)--Students graduating from college in the next few years face the worst job market since World War II, according to census data released in September.

Just slightly more than half of young adults under 30 -- 55.3 percent -- have jobs, a drop of 12 percent during the last decade. And economists don’t expect the job market to improve dramatically for several years.

Despite the dismal outlook, career counselors at Christian colleges insist their students have no reason to despair.

Ita Fischer, director of career services at Wheaton College, tells her students that persistence and faith are key to finding a job.  “It’s not going to be instantaneous, which is really a head twister for this generation,” she said. “But we tell them, you’re in this for a long marathon. This is not a sprint.”

Fischer also reminds her students to consider the promise in Jeremiah 29:11, that God has plans to give you hope and a future.

Although graduates might suffer as they wait longer than they would like to find a job, the struggle is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it teaches them to rely on God, Fischer said.

Students at Baylor University know they’ll face a tough time when they graduate, but they don’t seem too worried about it, said Kevin Nall, the school’s associate director for career services.  “I just don’t see the doom and gloom with these guys,” Nall said.

When Nall asks students what they know about the job market, they tell him they’ve heard it’s terrible. Some even say they plan to go to graduate school because they don’t think they’ll be able to get a job. But few seem to be really alarmed, he said.

The challenge for career counselors is to convince the students they do have some control over what happens to them after graduation. Nall tells students they have to be more assertive and competitive as they prepare to meet with prospective employers.  “You can no longer just show up and expect to get a job just because you can fog a mirror,” he said.

In the past, students would wait until their last semester to start looking for a job. That process now needs to start at the beginning of their junior year, Nall said.

Students need to start thinking about what they want to do and then start preparing to answer the question every employer is going to ask: What benefit are you going to bring to my company?

Both Fischer and Nall said coming of age in a tough economy had the advantage of teaching today’s students what their immediate predecessors forgot: they’re not entitled to anything.

The lesson is paying off, Fischer said.

“Students are hungrier and willing to work faster and harder than in previous years,” she said.